It's been a long week. If you can show me some Quaker equality and tolerance at the moment, please stand up. I know, I know that sounds really rude, but I am at a loss on the topic most recently. This frustrates me, as it is one of the very testimonies in which attracted me to Friends. I have not dared to wade out into the subject before now, as I don’t know how to do so without appearing judgmental myself, but it is so heavily on my mind I determined to put my thoughts here rather in my personal journal hoping for some insight. I am thinking more of how the various branches of Friends themselves respond and view one another in light of equality, rather than in the broader sense of the word.
Equality is so at the very heart of our Quaker faith. It’s not hard to see why as the other testimonies such as peace, simplicity and truth really cannot be of proper emphasis in one’s life without equality. To me they go together like a neat little package and while I’ve been witness to a lot quick reactions and dissension amongst the branches recently online, I don’t believe anyone consciously undermines those they feel as equal to. I’ve come to the notion that our lives, our actions can and should display items of commonality rather than a constant underlining of a particular branch. Thus, I’ve even changed my description on this blog as I’ve come to realize it is not benefitting unity lately.
I rely heavily on the internet with it’s various forums and blogs for Quaker companionship. While involved, it does not take long to observe the sting, this seeming urge to cast one as "other" if not in a similar Quaker mind set. I wonder if within the cyberworld there are simply those who are more vocal or that it is easier to fall into critical introspection due to the more impersonal medium. I know first hand that it is not exclusive an experience to a more Conservative Friend, as I’ve watched some Liberal loved ones really get bashed as well and my heart hurts. Quite frankly I am sad at this very moment over it all, as I think love can cover it but I don’t know the solution of this equation in a practical method that could be applied within communities to make all feel equally welcome. I’m left wondering why and I think it is only human to have the need to express and be understood, but some where between expression and the mark we often leave behind, there seems a trail of defensiveness that can easily turn into unhealthy debate.
I can’t claim to be a great scholar in the study of various religions. However, in the overviews and a course I have taken, I’ve never seen historical founders of a faith so esteemed such as Fox and Penn while simultaneously those adhering to that original practice of faith, perhaps a more primitive Christianity referred to as "unlearned". Yes, I am guilty of painting with that broad brush here and I know it full well. But there is something to be said on this delicate ground whereby the case condemned is not always one with a closed mind, but rather a Friend asserting their right like any other person to be true to themselves without having that freedom discarded. To me after observing this for several years now I am finding it the antithesis of Friendly thought. I find it just as wearisome as when my non-Quaker Christian friends or family scrunch up their faces at my announcement of Quakerism and begin questioning my salvation in clever little ways or even bold out right questionnaire-like conversation. Then I watch it largely assumed that some of my more liberal Friends just don’t esteem the Bible at all or have any such knowledge of it, which is blatantly untrue. In fact, I find most to have superior knowledge. Short of all that, does anyone really ever know a person’s heart?
My concern does not fall short here as I am sensitive in nature to the core and I don’t think I am alone in that. Very deep some where inside me is a place, this place that lacks enough words but needs to embrace others who are not like myself. I learn from them, I enjoy them and yes, love them. It some how brings me more peace and heals my own soul. My husband often tells me that I suffer for it and to an extent I think on occasion, he has said it plain. It is in this place where I do not reject my upbringing of Christian heritage, but sift, retain, and gather unto it what I feel are my own individual truths which do very much contain Quaker orientation and testimonies. But I must say, I sit up on the fence like a school kid, wondering how to make others feel loved and their variation welcome and how to not jump off and away from what I’ve claimed as my own–my very own freedom of choice as I need this focus and form of worship. This Quaker way helps and completes me. The practice of unprogrammed worship meets my spiritual needs as well as my physical requirements as I am finally able to enter in to community worship without the constant pressures of being called upon with my painful voice, eye sight and physical demands. I can be myself, reflect and relax and even close my eyes while I seek the Spirit. When meeting is over, I feel I have directly worshiped, rather than been worn out. That to me is refreshing and how I would hate to give up on it. I need elbow room and I see that we all do. My thoughts keep turning to various labels being more of a hindrance than a help.
In my seeking, I can’t help but find myself at the feet of Jesus, pondering his teachings to love God and my neighbor as myself. He didn’t just tell us to love our enemies, he did it. In this society that often pushes Jesus further and further away, I embrace the fact that his teaching was against being judgmental. Many of his followers today ignore this. I have at times ignored this in my fellow Christians. I do think Friends have some thing very special to say to the world right now and though small in number can quietly lead the way, but I feel we need a coming together once again to see all as equal and valuable; we need an equality as portrayed by Jesus. I want the courage to trust and follow so that we can unite together without the constant emphasis of our differences, but living our experiences and truths instead. This thought strengthens my resolve a bit and I sit and wonder can we start with one another?